HoTK - A different look at instances

One of the games I'm playing on and off (and satisfying those occasional gaming rat-pellet urges with) is Heroes of Three Kingdoms.

Some of HoTK's systems are very different from what I've seen in western games - including MU*s. One particularly striking difference shows in how they handle instances, which aren't exactly instances as we commonly know them. Rather than being places to go to kill scads of things, instances in HoTK are instead re-enactments of historical battles. They're a little like what Alterac Valley would be if it were a Totally Epic PvE Experience (don't start ;)).

The Xiliang Rebellion (which is what the pics in this post are attempting to show...) is a pretty good example of what HoTK instances are like. You're supposed to 'protect' Ma Chao (some illustrious general fellow), while he charges into masses of enemies in a frothing ball of rage. I say 'protect' because really, the guy is pretty damn durable. You're side-kicking him, more or less. He's certainly more durable than you are at the minimum recommended instance level. In a different instance, (but in the same vein), you're supposed to defend some pretty lady general (Sun Ren) from dastardly assassins as she perches on her horse and rains fiery arrows down upon her enemies - since obviously, women can never be screaming frothing balls of rage. -_-

It's an interesting dynamic, though, because it means that all the instances take a set amount of time - no more, no less. When you enter Xiliang Rebellion, for example, what you see is:

Victory: Yan Xing dies
Loss: Ma Chao Dies
Time to Completion: 25m

And so Ma Chao basically charges his mad way through balls of enemies over the course of 25 minutes, and your job is either to heal him, or kill all the enemies before they can wear him down. Ma Chao is level 60, the enemies level 20-24, but there are hordes of them. There are 3 'bosses' in his way before he gets to the final boss, one in each camp which he (and you) stomp through, systematically killing everything. It's attrition at its finest. If you can kill fast enough, or keep Ma Chao healed enough, you'll win. And the best part is, it isn't draggy. Even on repeatedly running the instance, it doesn't drag. In fact, it does feel kinda epic before you outlevel it. And since it always takes the stated amount of time (unless your frothing ball of historical rage dies), it works very well in terms of parcelling out playtime. 'Oh I only have 30 minutes to play today, what shall I do? Aha! There's my favourite frothing ball of historical rage. Let's get going then!'

However, while it generally works pretty well, you probably won't succeed if you are alone, at the minimum level, because Ma Chao will probably die before he gets to the last boss, or at the last boss (the condition for the win). These things are meant to be done in groups, after all. It's not a total loss when you go alone, though, because Ma Chao usually survives at least one boss, if you're solo at minimum level - meaning you'll usually be able to get 1 boss 'token'. Naturally, with a full party (6) of minimum level, chances of Ma Chao surviving and killing the final boss are much better, but what I find interesting is that you almost always get some sort of reward, no matter what your playstyle (unless you go afk).

Even more interestingly, there's something called 'charity'. How it works is, if you / any other punies are in the instance, and there's one high level (65+ in a level 20 instance), if the group succeeds, and the last boss dies, each level 20ish (even-levelled to instance) puny will get 2 tokens. These 2 tokens are given in addition to the reward for winning the instance at the correct level, and they can only be used by level 65+s, and they disappear once you leave the instance. So, in effect, it rewards level 65s for helping punies, but it stacks the deck in terms of social power play, thereby encouraging people to be polite to each other. Because if the punies aren't polite, the level 65 can say, 'Fuck this' and leave without killing the boss. If the level 65 kills the boss, but has been mean to the punies throughout, the punies can then say, 'HAH! I'd rather VANISH these tokens than give them to you! Thbbbbpttt!'

And it does, for the most part, work.

In fact, it's only a problem when the 65 is a total n00b. I didn't think you could be a n00b in PvE, PWE games are that easy, but...

At any rate, I've only had a problem once with a n00b65, and even the problem was kinda funny.

Xiliang Rebellion in HoTK is the first time in years that I have had someone FORTY LEVELS higher than me leech off me.

There I was, killing the hordes of mobbies and keeping Ma Chao alive, and n00b65 was doing nothing at all - except rolling need on the common rewards. XD

It's only happened to me once though - and I could have quit the instance rather than carrying him... I was just so curious to see if he would ever do anything at all.

All in all though, it's a refreshingly different approach to instances, and while it's not something I'll want to do all the time, I do like short stints of it now and then - particularly since it always takes exactly as long as it says it should, and no longer.

Invasion of the Body Coolers!

While I'm usually very admiring of PWE's nefarious marketing schemes, I think they've failed with HotK's CNY celebrations.

... technically, if you kill these snowmen, you get a chance to get a card. Collect all 5 cards, get some kind of shiny. Usually, players would be all over them. Only... the snowmen take about 2-3 minutes to kill, and you can only gain 4 cards per hour. Snowmen cages, however, load in player inventories every ?hour? or so. As a result, there's a massive invasion of snowmen that players by and large are totally uninterested in killing.

And then there's the New Year Statues.

This is a case where 'less is more' would have worked a lot better. These New Year Statues require the purchase of a US$1.75 lottery token (or key, as it's called here) before you can 'open' them.

Now, if PWE had limited them to oh, 5 tokens per character over the entire duration of the event, I'm sure they'd be worth a lot more - and more used.

As it is, I get 1 every hour (I think) that I'm online, and afk. Which strangely, has the effect of making me utterly uninclined to use them. When I only had ONE of the things... I was tempted. Now that I have 20, I'm not tempted at all. It's just easier to leave them in my inventory until the event is over. You can't even sell the things, no one wants them. I see some people trying to sell them. I see no one buying.

Add that to the fact that HotK just had an update... which bugged out the combat and made everyone hit like non-ninja bunnies - that means even MORE people sitting around town spawning even more snowmen that no one wants to kill while accumulating more New Year Statues that no one wants to buy... XD

And why, you ask, is everyone sitting around AFK instead of just logging off? Well, PWE likes to reward you for staying logged on no matter what. They don't care if you're AFK. They don't care what you do. They just want you to stay logged on. And because of that, every 30 min for the duration of this festive season, characters get a token that they can right-click for about 30% of their level's worth of xp - it scales. As well as other rewards.

And so, the snowmen slowly take over the Middle Kingdom. Hee!

Heroes of Three Kingdoms

Sooo, I've been poking around Heroes of Three Kingdoms, which is supposedly in its closed beta.

Supposedly, because:
1) There's no easy way to report bugs, even though I've found them
2) They basically sent the invitation to everyone and anyone who ever played a PWE game
3) There's no NDAs, no nothing... not that I noticed anyway. ;)

It fulfills my expectations of a PWE game. I.E. the gameplay seems to be the same old non-existent thing married to endless grind, the cash shop will doubtless be a vampire, and I already see bits of the casino system showing itself.

As long as you're fore-warned that that *is* what PWE games are, Heroes of Three Kingdoms delivers.

1) The quest text is interesting (at least, if you like Wuxia or historical Chinese stuff)
2) The world is beautiful
3) HoTK is emphatically historical - that means there are history nuggets hidden all over, and you get to meet 'legendary' heroes like Zhang Fei, Liu Bei, etc. (Or at least, I assume you will, from the way things have been going over my puny 15 levels!)
4) The music is nice. But only nice. Jade Dynasty's music is *gorgeous*. HoTK's soundtrack can get a bit repetitive.
5) Fashion (read, cosmetic cashshop items) promises to be as pretty as in all PWE games
6) Day and night cycles - gorgeous solar flares when riding into sunset, sunrise. It's such a little thing, but it matters.

SooOoOooo check it out. Despite the flaws in the gameplay itself, HoTK is very, very pretty. One could even say that PWE simply has a different focus from Western MMOs, and that gameplay isn't the core of the game at all. Just... be careful with your wallet.

Oh yes. And that's my newbie Charmer, Zhiruo (fan dancing/fighting healer archetype thingie) in her newbie clothes in Hebei, what I assume is a nooblet area. =) The city shots are of a city (duh) named Chang'an.

Heroes of the Three Kingdoms - New PWE MMO

Perfect World Entertainment sure does know how to create beautiful things. If Perfect World and Jade Dynasty are anything to go by, this new title: Heroes of Three Kingdoms, promises just as much visual (and audial!) splendour.

...and probably crap for gameplay! XD But PWE is so good at the first two that I will, at the very least, check this one out. =)

If this gets you interested too, just bear in mind that PWE is utterly, evilly, rapaciously brilliant at milking their F2P model games. Almost immorally so. 'Jade Casino' is one of the nicknames for Jade Dynasty, and the original Mandarin version, Zhu Xian has a similar nickname - only playing on the word 'Zhu' as a pun for 'Pig'. Greedygreedy money nomnoms!

But oh... what a beautiful piggy.